AAP: Publisher eBook Sales Fell almost 5% in 2017

AAP: Publisher eBook Sales Fell almost 5% in 2017 AAP ebook sales

The Association of American Publishers has released its end of year revenue report for the legacy publishing industry.

As expected, trade revenues were essentially flat (a 1.3% increase), while ebook revenues fell 4.7%.

Press release:

Publishers’ revenue for trade (consumer) books increased by $96 million (+1.3%) to $7.6 billion in 2017. The growth in trade books is attributed to a +3.0% revenue uptick in the Adult Books category, which comprises more than 65% of all revenue for trade books. Revenue for Childrens/YA books and Religious Presses declined in 2017.

Overall publisher revenue for 2017 was flat at $14.7 billion, up $57.5 million (+0.4%) from 2016. These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (Trade - fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses). Several categories that had declined in 2016 rebounded in 2017, including Adult Books, University Presses, and Professional Books.

Some 2017 trends include:

  • In terms of growth percentage, downloaded audio dominates with +29.7% growth compared to 2016. This is the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth for this format, with revenue nearly triple what it was in 2012.
  • eBook sales declined overall for the third year, the -4.7% decline is lower than it has been the past few years, and eBooks for Religious Presses saw a revenue increase.
  • Higher Education publishers’ revenue was flat (+0.2%), ending the previous years’ declines.
  • Adult Books saw increased revenue from 2016, up $148.1 million.



Percent Change

Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction








Religious Presses




Professional Books




K-12 Instructional Materials




Higher Ed Course Materials




University Press












Trade Book Formats

Print books generally continued on their positive growth trend from 2016. Revenue from print books totaled $5,774.9 million in 2017, up about $60 million (+1.0%), from 2016. In 2017, revenue grew for trade books’ most popular format – hardback books – which was up by $83.9 million; this countered the $4.8 million revenue decline in paperback books (-0.2%).

Downloaded audio, which grew +25.8% in 2016, continued its significant growth in 2017 with publisher revenue increasing +29.7% in 2017. This category has nearly tripled in the past five years. For the first time since AAP began measuring the category, growth passed the $300 million mark for the year, reaching $343 million, and overtaking mass market books in revenue.

The pace of eBooks declining revenue appears to be cooling, with a -4.7% decline – significantly less than the double-digit declines experienced in 2015 and 2016. While Adult Books and Childrens/YA saw declining eBook revenues, publisher revenue for religious presses was up by $3.1 million (+9.2%) in 2017.

Total Trade Net Revenue by Format (in millions)




Percent Change




Paperback & Mass Market








Downloaded Audio




Board Books




Other (including physical audio)




Education, Professional and Scholarly Publishing

After several years of declining revenue, higher education publishers saw $8.8 million in additional revenue from Course Materials (+0.2%), flat from 2016. This is primarily due to a reduction in returns (down -20.6% from 2016.)

PreK-12 Instructional Materials declined by -3.6% in 2017 compared to 2016. Revenue for PreK-6 books declined by -12.1%, while revenue for 6-12 books increased by +10.2%, with growth coming from adoption states.

After two years of declines, both University Presses (+5.3%) and Professional Books (+8.4%) - which include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books - saw revenue growth in 2017.

Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers. Figures represent publishers’ net revenue for the U.S. (i.e. what publishers sell to bookstores, direct to consumer, online venues, etc.), and are not retailer/consumer sales figures. AAP also tracks revenue annually with AAP’s StatShot Annual Report, which includes reporting from additional publishers and data about unit sales and channels. For more information about purchasing the StatShot Monthly and StatShot Annual, email [email protected].

About Nate Hoffelder (9943 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

2 Comments on AAP: Publisher eBook Sales Fell almost 5% in 2017

  1. That’s okay, indie/self published ebooks picked up the slack. 😉

  2. Nate

    Trade publishing is in trouble. This obstinate refusal to sell content in the customer’s choice is killing them. Pape, electrons who cares? Ebooks make money so offer them at a reasonable price and bundle some series

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